St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office continues to struggle with overtime expenses
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON -- Overtime expenses continue to mount for the St. Lawrence County Sheriff's Office, forcing legislators to take action to address the need.
During the County Legislature's Operations Committee meeting on Jan. 9, Undersheriff Sean O'Brien addressed the committee and requested a budget modification to the tune of $78,000."As you are all aware, we've had a significant staffing issue over the last several months, really a couple of years. This board as well as our office has taken great steps to remedy the situation," O'Brien said.
The Sheriff's Office currently still has three vacant part-time positions but has been able to fill the remaining full-time positions.
O'Brien told the committee that COVID outbreaks and holiday expenses have created a need for the budget modification to cover the additional overtime expenses incurred.
"We had an individual that needed watch, which required 24/7 one-on-one coverage. That's 24 hours per day for 35 days straight," O'Brien said.
The watch required also drove up overtime costs significantly due to minimum staffing requirements.
The watch in question cost $37,000 alone of the $78,000 request, O'Brien said.
An increased jail population, which stands at 123 or 16% higher than Jan. 2022, also poses a significant challenge.
"As we are all aware, the mental health issues are not going away. The drug issues are not going away. We are anticipating an increase going into the new year. It's unfortunate, but that's where we're at," O'Brien said.
O'Brien also told legislators that the medical assistance program at the jail is nearly full, with 51% of all prisoners enrolled in the program.
The MAP program is designed to offer medical treatment for inmates who require treatment for substance issues.
Legislator Joseph Lightfoot questioned whether the county would receive reimbursement for state prisoners who were housed at the county jail.
According to O'Brien, the county had received money for doing so in the past and will continue to see revenue come in for every state prisoner held at the county jail for 10 days or more.
The reimbursement from the state will be $100 per day, per prisoner, according to O'Brien.
"We will see money coming in on the revenue side," he said.
Legislator Harry Smithers also questioned the total expense of overtime for the watch of the one inmate, saying the $37,000 seemed excessive.
O'Brien broke down the figures, saying because of staffing issues and minimum staffing requirements an additional officer from the corrections department would have to watch the inmate.
Because of the staffing issues, all 24 hours in a day would come at the overtime rate, O'Brien said.
Legislator Margaret Haggard also questioned the current staffing at the correctional facility, asking if staffing issues may be leading to increased overtime expenses.
Within the correctional facility, a staff shortage will also complicate matters with 13 provisional hires set to go into the academy.
"These 13 people we hired provisionally, we don't know if they've passed the test. We don't know where we're at and if they're reachable on the list. And now we'll have to get these people training," O'Brien said.
The resolution for a budget modification was passed unanimously and will now move to the full board for final approval.